Federal legislation could help Tahoe ski resorts expand summer recreation portfolio | SierraSun.com

Federal legislation could help Tahoe ski resorts expand summer recreation portfolio

Adam Jensen and Matthew Renda
Sierra Sun

LAKE TAHOE and#8212; Zip lines, ropes courses, mountain bike parks, disc golf courses and concerts could be easier to permit at ski resorts under a bill introduced by U.S. Congress members last month.

Adding jobs to ski towns during the offseason is also a major goal of the legislation, sponsored by Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., as well as Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

and#8220;This bill will not only increase recreational opportunities but also expand business opportunities and jobs,and#8221; DeGette said in a statement. and#8220;Year-round recreational activity will provide substantial benefits to our local economies, and help create stable jobs in the thirteen states that are currently home to ski resorts on public land.and#8221;

The legislators introduced the bill, known as the Ski Area Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011, on Feb. 17. The bill would modify the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986.

Some of the recreational activities included in the bill have already been permitted at Lake Tahoe resorts by the U.S. Forest Service, which encourages summer recreation and#8220;that is compatible with or enhances natural resource-based recreation opportunities and does not require additional specialized facilities,and#8221; said spokeswoman Cheva Heck.

But the bill’s authors hope to clarify exactly what can be permitted on Forest Service land containing ski resorts.

Tennis courts, water slides, swimming pools, golf courses and amusements parks would be specifically prohibited if the bill passed.

The legislation would also explicitly allow an activity that is already prominent on the slopes and#8212; snowboarding. The 1986 act only mentions Nordic and alpine skiing as allowable activities at ski resorts on Forest Service land.

Amelia Richmond, spokeswoman for Squaw Valley USA, which offers many summer recreation opportunities, said offering prospective customers year-round activities is crucial to the resort’s business model.

and#8220;As a company, we have year-round overhead and year-round employees, so having summer and fall activities is key to operating a successful business,and#8221; she said. and#8220;Squaw Valley is currently in the process of defining significant future improvements for the resort as a whole. I feel confident that some of those improvements will relate to summer operations.and#8221;

Jessica VanPernis, spokeswoman for Northstar-at-Tahoe, said since the resort is on private land, it will not be affected by the legislation.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort spokesman Michael Dalzell said resort officials have not had the opportunity to examine the details of the bill, but said it should help them expand summer offerings, which already include mountain biking, disc golfing and a ropes course.

The bill will be a and#8220;huge liftand#8221; to ski area economies, said Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro.

and#8220;As a jobs-promoting bill, it has true bi-partisan support in both the House and the Senate,and#8221; Pecoraro wrote in an e-mail. and#8220;This bill will clarify the Forest Service’s authority to allow summer activities at ski areas and will be huge lift to resort communities and Lake Tahoe’s tourism economy. We urge Congress to quickly consider this bi-partisan legislation and pass it as soon as possible.and#8221;

The bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009, but was never reached a vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill was cleared from the books at the close of the 2009-2010 legislative session, according to http://www.govtrack.us.

The 2011 version of the bill has been referred to congressional committees for review, according to the website.

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